The Thibodaux Massacre, Louisiana 1887
Cane cutters, while “free,” weren’t allowed to own land, rent, and their families lived in old slave cabins. Instead of cash, workers got scrip that bought basics at high prices at plantation stores.
Workers banded together in several sugar parishes. They demanded cash wages of $1.25 per day, or $1.00 if meals were included.
Growers refused. The workers went on strike and marched.
10,000 workers spent 3 weeks on strike.
The planters begged the state to unleash the all-white state militia. Both the state militia and white vigilantes went door to door shooting suspected strikers and those unlucky enough to cross their path.
The indiscriminate killing left approximately 60 people dead. The bodies of many of the strikers were dumped in unmarked graves. Those who survived hid in the woods and swamps as the killings spread to other plantations.
The Southern white press heralded the action of the militia and vigilantes. A sugar planter who participated in the attacks won a seat in Congress. Statues were erected and public areas named after many involved in the unlawful killings while the workers, including women and children, went anonymous, their murders marked only by their loved ones. Black farm workers wouldn’t attempt to unionize in earnest again until the 1930s.
There are many more stories like this in America’s history.